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BY GEORGE: Light My Way

Progress in electrical engineering, pollution control, and energy security are just a few of the reasons the good old fashioned incandescent light bulbs continue to decline in significance when it comes to lighting our rooms. As more provisions of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 have kicked in this year, the standard incandescent bulb is either being forced out completely or is evolving. And the reason: The standard light bulb we’ve been using for years and years converts just 10% of electricity it uses into light. That’s a really, really inefficient system of energy use. Can you imagine having to do 10 pushups just to get credit for one?

The law does NOT ban these old fashioned bulbs, nor does it mandate compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL), as some have assumed. Manufacturers and wholesalers do have to meet new standards and improve efficiency of incandescent bulbs, or replace them with newer technologies.

The law phases in over the next two years, and the 100-watt bulb is the first to be required to be fixed up.

There are three main alternatives. Halogen incandescent bulbs at $4-$8 per bulb offer energy savings of up to 25% compared to the standard bulb and have a life expectancy of up to three times longer than the standard bulb with the same brightness. There are also CFLs, which cost between $1.75-$2.00 or so, and offer energy savings of 75% and last 10 times longer than the old-fashioned bulbs. The most expensive initial cost is in the Light-Emitting Diode (LEDs) bulb. Prices range from $10-$26 with energy savings of 75-85%, but can last up to 25 times longer than the old fashioned variety. LEDs are ones to which price drops will be dramatic as more are adopted and technologies evolve, as well has increasing manufacturing capacity.

Hope this sheds some light on your shopping adventures to the hardware store or grocery store next time you stock up on your bulb-buying venture.

By: George Elliott

Yes, by all means, stock up

You can still purchase 60 Watt incandescent bulbs, and if you're smart, you'll stock up on a couple of cases.

The inefficiency of an incandescent bulb helps you cut your heating bill in Winter. When Summer rolls around and the days get longer, it stays lighter later, so you don't have the lights on and heat the house as much.

CFLs are still a royal pain. You have problems with using them in ceiling fixtures that invert the bulb. (They run hotter, shortening their life.) If you accidentally break one, the EPA published instructions on the protective measures you need to take while cleaning it up. Oh, you also can't simply throw them in the garbage. There is still no CFL that can duplicate the soft, warm glow of a frosted incandescent bulb.

Here's the bottom line. Your lights, even incandescent bulbs, account for a relative small portion of your monthly electric bill. You can run a 100 Watt bulb for ten hours and you are just approaching 1kWh. That cost you around ELEVEN CENTS. That's why this push to get rid of incandescent bulbs is a bunch of bunch of nonsense!

If you want to save energy, limit your use of the oven, get a timer for your water heater, set your thermostat to 68 in Winter and 78 in Summer, and install a few ceiling fans.